Gear Review: Matador Beast28 Backpack

matador beast28 review

In a nutshell: The Matador Beast28 lives up to its name as the brand’s flagship packable backpack. It packs small enough (4.5 x 8 in) to stash in a larger bag, but is large enough to carry a full day’s worth of gear. With a delicious mix of durability, utility, and packability, this pack has what it takes to be both an everyday carry companion and a traveler’s day trip mercenary.


Initial impressions: It’s surprising a pack as full-featured as the Beast28 can pack down this well. Not exactly pocket-sized, but definitely small enough to fit in a suitcase or backpacking rig without soaking up too much real estate.

While it doesn’t shrink down as much as it’s lighter sibling (the Freerain24), this pack is more substantial and well-equipped to handle a long day hike.

That said, this bag is built for packability, so padding is at a minimum. Hiking for hours with this thing on your back will get uncomfortable, but there’s not a backpack out there that won’t wear on you after a while either.

Weighing in at 20 oz, it’s more or less half the weight of the typical hiking pack in its category, but still maintains an air of durability. We’re always happy to see YKK zippers, a sure sign of a pack built-for-abuse. Constructed out of 500D PU-coated ripstop, we feel pretty comfortable taking the Beast28 out into the rocky, rugged terrain.

The PU-coating ups the water resistance of the nylon too, but it’s been an abnormally dry year here in Arizona, so we’ll need to do more testing on this front.

Organization wise, this pack does well at providing places to stash your stuff without going too far. The two-way zippers up the convenience factor, while the daisy-chain style lashing straps provide extra options if you run out of room inside.

The 28-liter capacity does allow it to be used for a wilderness overnighter if packed correctly with ultralight, packable gear.

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matador beast28 backpack review

How it works for us: We take our backpacks everywhere, and we’re always trying to figure out how to execute day hikes during multi-day backpacking trips. We’ve tried out numerous “summit” packs, and most are poorly built, uncomfortable as hell, or don’t pack well.

For trips where a layover day has the prospect of a 15-mile hike, the Beast28 is built to handle the job while packing into a reasonable size for stowing in the big pack. We’re also stoked for it as a general travel companion — it simplifies life to toss your pack in your duffel bag as if it’s an extra couple pairs of socks.

Final thoughts: Matador took packability and functionality to a new place with the Beast28. When it’s fully loaded on your back with a day’s full of gear, it’s hard to believe it packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. A pack this versatile will make you reconsider the limits of what you thought was possible with a backpack.

We're still testing this product — check back here later for our full review.